Title: Phallic Fields
Technique: Digital art
When I started to work on the subject of Hysteria the first things that came up in my mind were pretty common phrases we use in everyday language ,and I realised that I know little about the subject. After the research I did and the materials I read. I was pretty much in shock. The word hysteria originates from the Greek word for uterus, hysteria. The oldest record of hysteria dates back to 1900 B.C. when Egyptians recorded behavioural abnormalities in adult women. The ancient Romans credited hysteria to a disease of the womb or a disruption in reproduction (i.e., a miscarriage, menopause, etc.). Hysteria theories from the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and ancient Romans were the basis of the Western understanding of hysteria. Female hysteria was once a common medical diagnosis for women, which was described as exhibiting a wide array of symptoms, including anxiety, shortness of breath, fainting, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, (paradoxically) sexually forward behaviour, and a "tendency to cause trouble for others”. It is no longer recognised by medical authorities as a medical disorder but its diagnosis and treatment were routine for hundreds of years in Western Europe. In Western medicine hysteria was considered both common
and chronic among women. Even though it was categorised as a disease, hysteria's symptoms were synonymous with normal functioning female sexuality.In extreme cases, the woman may have been forced to enter an insane asylum or to have undergone surgical hysterectomy. Between the fifth and thirteenth centuries, hysteria became perceived as satanic possession. Instead of admitting patients to a hospital, the church began treating patients through prayers, amulets, and exorcisms. Furthermore, during the Renaissance period many patients of hysteria were prosecuted as witches and underwent interrogations, torture, and execution. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries activists and scholars worked to change the perception of hysteria back to a medical condition ,that hysteria was a malady of the brain. As doctors developed a greater understanding of the human nervous system, the neurological model of hysteria was created, which further propelled the conception of hysteria as a mental disorder. Only during the 20th century, as psychiatry advanced in the West, anxiety and depression diagnoses began to replace hysteria diagnoses in Western countries. In Eastern countries such as Sudan, Egypt, and Lebanon hysteria diagnoses remained consistent. Only in 1980, after a gradual decline in diagnoses and reports, hysteria was removed from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which had included hysteria as a mental disorder. As the centuries went on, many different causes of, and solutions for, hysteria were presented, ranging from medical afflictions caused by the uterus’ lack of satisfaction through sexual intercourse or childbearing, to the spiritual possession of demons that caused a woman to act erratically. Everything from sex, to manual stimulation of the clitoris, to smelling pungent fragrances (originated by Hippocrates) were thought to aid in the treatment of hysteria. In the 16th century, English surgeon Nathaniel Highmore claimed that the “hysterical paroxysm” (the result of genital stimulation of women) could also be called an orgasm. The first vibrator came, as a way to bring women to orgasm—and relieve them of their hysteria—more quickly. The history of hysteria shows just how deeply sexism can affect science and psychology. The consistent repression of the female mental disorders ,mostly miss understood and misdiagnosed by the Patriarchal society throughout the history. Every extreme emotional state and any kind of rebellion against society ( even like women who refused to get married or were not capable to bear children or having menopause or epilepsy or swing moods ) and it’s rules were considered a form of Hysteria. The history of hysteria flows directly into current women’s health challenges—both physical and mental. Women were, and still are, often assumed to be less competent and less in control of their bodies and minds. Not an easy subject to swallow. How much we don’t know about the history of the female repression. Things that are natural to us as women in the 21st century are not to be taken for granted and there is still a long way to go.